To the Editor:
Last fall, I had the extraordinary opportunity to travel to the Arctic as a geologist and tour guide aboard a ship. There were many memorable moments, but one stands out. A few miles off Greenland, we spotted a polar bear resting on a small iceberg that had drifted south from the Arctic Circle. Sadly, this wild creature faces an uncertain future.
Alexandria is also at a crossroads. Although the city has added nearly $7 billion to the tax base over the last 10 years, growth is taking its toll on our quality of life. The average residential tax bill almost doubled between 2000 and 2005. City debt has been rising rapidly, and we have lost about half of our market-rate affordable rental apartments. Population growth has outpaced the acquisition of new parkland, and we may need to build additional schools. Our streets are more congested too.
Alexandria has many qualities that are worth preserving as we change. There is a sense of place and community, and an historic ambiance. There are historic landmarks like Gadsby’s Tavern, and many small businesses along King Street and Mt Vernon Avenue. There are also places like Hunting Towers in Old Town and the Hamlets in the West End, which still offer rents that are much more affordable than most apartments.
We are gambling that developments at Potomac Yards, along Beauregard, and on the waterfront will provide enough revenue in the future to pay for community benefits and to mitigate any impacts. There is in fact little to justify such conclusions. The only thing that is clear is that we are facing a much more uncertain future than we were in 2003 and 2006, when I was elected to the City Council as a Democrat.
To put Alexandria on a more sustainable path, there needs to be a change in leadership at City Hall, beginning with the incumbent mayor who has been on the Council for the last 18 years. We should be guided by thoughtful planning and open, transparent government that represents citizens, rather than simply developers.
So, if you want a city government that listens to citizens, and if you feel that our future is threatened by poorly planned growth, join me next Sunday, May 6, from 4-7 p.m. at Pat Troy’s Ireland’s Own Restaurant in Old Town to hear what I will do to ensure that Alexandria remains a livable place in the years to come.
Independent candidate for mayor